Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.
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Where things stand
Separate groups of governors — one on the East Coast, one on the West — announced on Monday that they would be working together as they eventually reopen their economies. Hours earlier, President Trump wrote on Twitter that a decision on when “to open up the states” was the White House’s to make. And certainly, any change in federal recommendations will carry weight across the country. But Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, said Trump had missed his chance to take the reins. “Seeing as we had the responsibility for closing the state down, I think we probably have the primary responsibility for opening it up,” Wolf said. The governors, all Democrats except for Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, said they would work together on regional frameworks but continue to make decisions state by state.
Joe Biden received Bernie Sanders’s endorsement yesterday, and he also won the last election they’ll fight as rivals (though there’s always 2024!). The results from last week’s contentious Wisconsin elections were finally reported on Monday: Biden won over 60 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. It was yet another sign of his strength — at least against Sanders — in the Midwest, a region where he will need to do well come November.
Wisconsin’s election took place only because Republican officials in the State Legislature and a conservative State Supreme Court refused to postpone it amid the coronavirus pandemic. But after insisting on moving ahead, they may now have buyer’s remorse: On Monday, the most closely watched state-level race on the ballot went Democrats’ way. Jill Karofsky, a liberal Circuit Court judge, unseated the incumbent, Justice Daniel Kelly, to win a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. With Ms. Karofsky on the court, conservatives will hold only a four-to-three majority during a crucial election year, when the bench is almost guaranteed to see more voting-rights cases. Her victory also demonstrated Democrats’ ability to turn out voters and effectively wield vote-by-mail efforts in a key presidential battleground.
Republicans in Congress want to quickly pass a $250 billion expansion of the small business loan program set up under last month’s stimulus bill. With the Senate away, any amendment would have to pass by a consensus vote. But Democrats have refused to get behind the expansion if it doesn’t include additional money for state and local governments, hospitals, food assistance and coronavirus testing. The loan program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, is on track to rapidly run out of money — but states, too, are on the verge of amassing large budget shortfalls if they do not receive further federal assistance.
Dr. Anthony Fauci listened as President Trump spoke during the coronavirus briefing at the White House on Monday.
Our Bernie Sanders reporter weighs in on the senator’s endorsement.
Sanders endorsed Biden in a split-screen video appearance on Monday, opting for a quick display of Democratic unity over a drawn-out public jostling for power in the lead-up to the party’s convention.
“We need you in the White House,” Sanders said. “And I will do all that I can to make that happen.”
The endorsement came much faster than it did in 2016, when Sanders waited until July to back Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Biden’s campaign hopes it will help allay concerns about his candidacy on the party’s left wing.
Sanders and Biden made a point of demonstrating mutual respect and affection on Monday as they announced the introduction of six working groups aimed at finding common ground on policy. “The task is for them to develop creative new ideas and proposals,” Biden said, “and we’re looking forward to turning that work into positive change for the country.”
Our reporter Sydney Ember has covered the Sanders campaign over the past year, and she took the time to answer a few questions about the endorsement and its potential impact.
Sanders dropped out of the race last week, and he endorsed Biden just a few days later. That’s a very different situation than in 2016, when he withheld his endorsement of Clinton until just weeks before the Democratic convention. What was different for Sanders this time?
A few things! Like many Democratic voters, Sanders was determined to defeat President Trump, whom he has called the “most dangerous president” in modern American history. After losing a string of primaries, and once Biden indicated that he was willing to move in Sanders’s direction on some key policies, Sanders realized that the best way to unify the Democratic Party and beat Trump in November was to drop out of the race. Another difference: Unlike his relationship with Clinton, Sanders and Biden are actually friends.
Sanders views himself as being associated with a leftist movement that seeks to rid private money from politics and to elevate working-class concerns. He’s not your typical Democratic Party loyalist. How does his decision to endorse Biden dovetail with his efforts to build an anti-corporate political movement?
Some of his supporters will certainly view it that way. Sanders has acknowledged that he and Biden do not see eye to eye on some issues that have become litmus tests for the progressive left. But his decision to drop out and endorse Biden was about doing what he could to help beat Trump, rather than watch the country suffer from what he views as even worse. On a related note, when he dropped out, he said his campaign was over but the political movement he started was not. So while he may have had to compromise this time to beat Trump, he views a potential Biden presidency as at least a step in the right direction.
Biden and Sanders revealed that their teams have been working together over the past few weeks to create a few different policy task forces. What is the function of these groups, and do they have the potential to really play a part in shaping the Biden campaign’s platform looking ahead to the general election?
That is one of the big questions right now. During the endorsement announcement, Sanders and Biden said they were creating task forces on six issues: the economy, education, immigration, health care, criminal justice and climate change. Biden’s campaign said that the groups would include “policy experts and leaders that represent the diverse viewpoints of the Democratic Party,” and promised updates on the groups’ progress. You have to think that Sanders at least believes that these groups will help shape the Biden campaign’s platform, given that their formation was an important part of his endorsement announcement.
Biden told Sanders on Monday, “I am going to need you not just to win the campaign, but to govern.” It’s still early, but do we have a sense of whether Sanders might in fact be asked to play a role in a Biden administration? If so, does he have his eye on any particular positions?
I have not gotten any indication at this point that Sanders wants to serve in a Biden administration. But in this crazy world, anything is possible.